Something that has been in the news off and on for the past couple of years is what is known as sanctuary cities. What is a sanctuary city? Where did this idea come from? The answer to the question, where did they come from, might actually surprise you. Numbers 35:15 says, “These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there.” The idea of a sanctuary city originates in the Bible! Surprised? Now, a word of caution here, how the idea of a sanctuary city is being used around our country is not how the Bible lays out the use for a sanctuary city.
The biblical use of a sanctuary city was for a person who accidentally killed someone else. If you accidentally killed someone, you could flee to one of these six cities before their family avenged the murder. You would be put on trial in the sanctuary city you fled to, and it would be decided whether or not what you did was murder or what our law considers manslaughter. The difference between the two is very simple, what was the intent of the person who took the life of another? If you were found to be innocent from malice or lacked intent to murder, you were allowed to live in the sanctuary city. That doesn’t mean that you got off without any consequences. You had to remain in that city as long as the high priest who was alive at the time was still alive. If you stepped foot out of the city, and the avenger for the family of the one you killed saw you, they could avenge the person’s death. So you lost a decent amount of freedom, and can you imagine the whispers you would see as you walked down the streets of the sanctuary city? Not to mention, you had to uproot your life and start all over in a new city. This was another way that God built into Israel’s law the expectation of extending grace and mercy to someone. As you can see, this has nothing to do with coming in illegally to a country, and that city protecting the lawbreaker from answering for their crimes. Everyone accused of a crime, deserves their day in court, and until that day and even after, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because they are a co-bearer of the image of God, just as we are.
I believe something that we need to get back to practicing is giving grace and mercy to others. Instead of of getting upset about everything, we should seek to learn the intent behind what was said or what was done. Maybe, just maybe, the person didn’t intend for it to come out the way it did or what happened to happen. It doesn’t take away the hurt, and it doesn’t take away consequences for their actions. Rather, it is a reminder to us and to them, that we are all sinful, and we all need to experience grace and mercy. After all, if it wasn’t for the grace and mercy of God, where would we be? I’ll tell you, we would still be separated from God by our sin except we would be hopeless and helpless, and on our way to eternal condemnation; that’s where we would be if it wasn’t for the mercy and grace of God. So the next time someone says something that hurts you, or does something that harms you; stop, take a breath, and have a conversation with them. Find out the intent behind the words or the actions. You just might discover, this is a great opportunity to extend grace and mercy to them as God did to you.
By His grace and for His glory,